Do you agree if I say that some of our favourite dishes come from childhood? When we cook them, we tend to bring the most precious memories and feelings from the past into our minds.
The recipe I’m going to share with you today has a special meaning to me. It’s all about nostalgia! It’s relates to the memories of my grandmother and coziness of her house, memories of lazy summer days, of eating honey straight from a big jar…
In Russia we call it syrniki. This dish exists under different names across Eastern European countries. Basically syrniki are cottage cheese pancakes. You combine cottage cheese, eggs and flour, then you fry them. Easy! But here comes a trick – the best syrniki are those, which contain as little flour as possible.
Here are a few tips for choosing and preparing the cottage cheese for cooking syrniki:
- The cottage cheese should be as fresh as possible.
- The cottage cheese should be drained, if it seems to be too wet. Place it in cheesecloth and hang it above a big bowl or place it under a press for 1,5-2 hours. The better it has been drained, the less flour it will require later.
- The cottage cheese should be passed through a fine sieve. Put a pack of a cottage cheese into the fine sieve placed over a big bowl and rub it using a spatula or wooden spoon. It’s quite an energy-consuming task, so I would suggest you to delegate it to someone else, like a husband for example.
- It’s okay to substitute the cottage cheese with ricotta but remember that it should be drained very well. Since ricotta contains more liquid than cottage cheese, it will require more flour. Therefore, it won’t come out the same as traditional syrniki but still it’s going to taste delicious.
- Formaggio in fiocchi is also not the best alternative either, as it tends to melt while frying. I strongly recommend you to find Russian tvorog and use it for preparing syrniki.
- Don’t choose cottage cheese that is low in fat, as the end result will lack flavour.
- Before frying syrniki, place them in the fridge for half an hour. This will simplify the whole process of cooking later on. I usually prepare syrniki batter in advance. I mold mass into small patties and put them in the refrigerator overnight, covering the container tightly with plastic wrap. I should admit, this little tip makes my life much easier and helps to avoid the morning stress, especially when I need to get my kids ready for school.
- Most of the time syrniki are sweet but can be savory as well. You can change the amount of sugar (or cut it out completely) – tastes differ! The most common additional ingredient for this dish is raisins. Other fruits (like dried apricots, apples and pears) are added less frequently.
- In order to add a subtle floral touch to your dough, you may also want to add vanilla.
- Being mostly a sweet dish syrniki should not be too sweet however because usually they are served with some sweet condiment, such as honey, condensed milk, varenye (something similar to berry jam but not exactly the same) or fruit sauce. But you should certainly try to serve it with sour crème! It’s delicious!
As with other traditional dishes, the number of syrniki variations is nearly infinite. Every housewife has her own recipe, proportions and secrets of how to prepare this dish.
If it’s your first experience, I think it’s a good idea to start from the most basic recipe. I hope you will like it!
Syrniki with cranberry sauce
To make 10-12 pancakes
- 2×275 gr. packs of cottage cheese/tvorog (15% fat at least)
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 tbsp of sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- ½ zest of a small lemon
- pinch of salt
- 5 tbsp of flour (perhaps a little bit more)
- 1/4 tsp of baking powder
For cranberry sauce:
- 1 cup (250 ml) of frozen cranberries (choose small ones)
- 2 tbsp rose water
- 1 – 3 tbsp sugar (to taste)
First make the sauce
- In a small saucepan, mix together frozen cranberries, rose water and sugar. Bring to a simmer.
- Cook, stirring from time to time till the sauce gets a little bit thicker.
Then prepare syrniki:
- Pass cottage cheese/tvorog through a sieve. Beat the eggs lightly.
- Make a cut down the length of the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds from the inside. Put them in a mortar along with a tablespoon of sugar and use the pestle to incorporate them completely.
- In a big bowl put together cottage cheese/tvorog, eggs, vanilla mix, the remaining part of the sugar, salt and lemon zest.
- In a separate bowl mix flour and baking powder, then add them to the cottage cheese/tvorog mass. Mix everything thoroughly, but don’t overdo it. If the mass becomes too sticky, add a little bit more flour (not too much).
- Mold the dough into small patties (about 6 cm in diameter). Before that moisten your hands, so the dough won’t stick to them.
- Place the patties in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight, covering the container with a plastic wrap.
- Mold the patties. Coat with flour.
- Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat with some olive oil. When pan is hot place the first part of your syrniki and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Carefully flip them over and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Serve hot with your favourite topping! Buon appetito!